Shortly after we moved back to the U.S. eight years ago – after living in Canada for 40 years – my sister in New Jersey suggested we think about becoming involved with the ACLU. We knew little about the ACLU and were aware of nothing comparable in Canada. Not long after, we noticed the ACLU of Montana was holding its annual meeting in Helena, open to the public. We decided to attend.
It was a turning point. The speakers, the discussion groups, the staff, the leadership, and the passion and commitment for civil liberties were compelling. Over lunch with a couple who were plaintiffs in an ACLU case seeking legal protections for same-sex couples, I became aware of an issue I had known little about. (Thanks to the work of the ACLU and its partners, not only does this couple now have legal protection, but a marriage license!) That day we became ACLU members and supporters and within a few years I found myself on the Board.
As an American in Canada, I was keenly aware that in the U.S. – my home country – the death penalty persisted. I could not explain this to incredulous Canadian friends, let alone to myself. From Canada, I started supporting a small organization in the U.S. that represents the wrongfully convicted, many on death row. Now I am an active part of an organization that has not let up in its determination to abolish the death penalty. I look forward to the day when I tell our Canadian friends, “We’ve done it!”
Since returning from Canada we have lived within a reservation, on the shores of a beautiful lake. The waters we swim in belong to the Tribe. The stones we marvel at belong to the Tribe. The fish we bring home are thanks to the Tribe. These waters, and the land all around it, were taken cruelly and abruptly from those who were first here, people who had lived responsibly on it for centuries. There is no reparation for that shameful story, a story that continues to this day. I am pleased to be associated with an organization that is committed to working with Montana’s tribes on civil liberties issues. The steps are small, but we are taking them.
The ACLU has become part of my life and I am grateful.